In the Old Testament capital punishment was mandated for many offenses:
1. Adultery (Leviticus 20:11)
2. Attacking parents (Exodus 21:15)
3. Bestiality (Exodus 22:19, Leviticus 20:15)
4. Blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16)
5. Bull goring (Exodus 21:29)
6. Contempt of court (Deuteronomy 17:12)
7. Cursing parents (Exodus 21:17, Leviticus 20:9)
8. Disobedient son (Deuteronomy 21:21)
9. Female promiscuity (Deuteronomy 22:21)
10. Idolatry (Exodus 22:20, Deuteronomy 13:5, 17:2)
11. Incest (Leviticus 20:11+)
12. Kidnapping (Exodus 21:16, Deuteronomy 24:7)
13. Malicious witness in capital case (Deuteronomy 19:16)
14. Manslaughter (Genesis 9:6, Exodus 21:12, Leviticus 24:17, Numbers 35:16+)
15. Priestly arrogation (Numbers 3:10, 18:7)
16. Sabbath breaking (Numbers 15:35)
17. Sodomy (Leviticus 20:13)
18. Sorcery (Exodus 22:18, Leviticus 20:17)
Although the N.T. acknowledges the death penalty's use by the state (Romans 13:3-4), we find no explicit doctrine of capital punishment. This means that for Christians the Bible neither commands nor condemns it. What are some factors to keep in mind as we think through this issue?
1. God and only God has the right to take away life.
2. Under the old covenant, he on occasion commanded his people to act as his agents, executing his punishments.
3. No such warrant exists within the new covenant. The plain sense reading of Jesus' words in Matt 5:39-45 is that Christians are forbidden to kill. (Further, "Just War" theory was not developed until the church and the state were connected, in the 4th century.)
4. For the materialist, this life is all there is; thus capital punishment is the worst possible penalty one could suffer.
5. For the believer, death is not the end. It is only a transition. If we receive the gift of eternal life, most of our existence will actually be lived on the other side of the grave, not on this side.
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